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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Best Nikon Kit Lens? Nikon 1 Nikkor 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

As I hinted at in the previous article, today I have for you the review of the Nikkor 10-30mm VR lens for the Nikon 1 system. Now, Nikon has a longish tradition of good, cheap, capable kit lenses. The 18-55 was a great lens, with its capabilities easily exceeding its price tag. The older 28-80 was a similarly decent lens. In fact, we'd have to go back to the AF 35-70 and AF 35-80 to find a mediocre kit lens. So, how does the 10-30mm compare? As the title suggests, it's very good news.

There are two versions of this lens, an older non-PD (stands for 'Power Drive') model, and a newer, PD model. The copy I own and tried is the older, non-PD model. I have no opinion on the newer one, although optically there shouldn't be much if any difference.

Older, non-PD model:

Newer, PD model:

+ superb optically. Suffice to say, at 10mm it's maybe even bit better than the 10mm f/2.8. No great flaws to speak of, a great match for the Nikon 1 sensor.
+ focuses pretty close
+ for a midrange zoom (equivalent range: 27-81mm) it's very compact (especially in 'store' position)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Which Is Better, DSLR or Mirrorless? Yeah, this Is a Nikon J1 Review

This review is different than any other. It is a review and a piece of advice at the same time. The topic of the review is the Nikon J1 - the cheapest Nikon mirrorless you can find at this point (used). But the article also touches upon a more general issue: Which is Better, DSLR or Mirrorless? Read the review, then find the answers at the "Final Verdict" section - which is significantly more extended than in previous articles

And so, I decided to get a mirrorless. I had used a mirrorless camera in the past - it was an Olympus Pen; it didn't replace my Nikon DX system. I bought a Nikon J1 together with a Nikkor 10-30mm VR lens (to be reviewed in the next couple of weeks), fully knowing it will not replace my Nikon FX system. Perhaps this review is written from a non-objective perspective, as it reflects the thoughts of a photographer who plans to use two systems, Nikon 1 (CX) and Nikon Full Frame (FX). Then again, Amateur Nikon is not about cold diagrams, charts and numbers, but about photography as an experience. It might be so that you're wondering the same things. Perhaps you're thinking, to the question "Which is better, a DSLR or a mirrorless?", the answer might be: both!

When the light is good, the camera can definitely deliver.
But it's more about that; it's about being able to capture so many more moments
than you would if you had to carry a DSLR in a bag all the time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

5 Tips for Awesome Flash Photography

Your first camera might have been a compact camera (film compact camera if you are older than, say, 25). Or, it might have been a mobile phone camera. Since, you might have got a DSLR - or a mirrorless. One common element in all of these cameras is their on-board flash (some phones might not have one). More importantly, their flash is fixed, forward-looking, and in some cases (particularly with compact and mobile phone cameras) it is impossible to adjust its output. This means one thing:

People grow up photographically learning bad habits about flash photography.

You see, the worst possible way to use a flash is to use a direct, head-on flash at night, trying to illuminate a subject relatively close to the camera. Especially with an automatic flash (like most compact cameras or mobile phones have) that will simply bathe the subject in light, leaving everything else in the dark. That is the black hole effect: an overexposed subject, with shiny hair and skin, as well as harsh, unflattering shadows, and dark, severely underexposed surroundings.

Flash photography, truly artistic and innovative flash photography, is a far more complicated issue. Whole books have been written about it:

This article will not attempt to teach you excessively complex setups (perhaps a future article series might allows us to say more about flash techniques); instead, with today's article, I want to give you 5 simple and concrete tips for instantly better pictures. I have tried to construct the tips so that both beginners and advanced photographers alike can find them useful. I assume only one thing: you have a Nikon DSLR and an external flash. That's all. No 5-flash setups, no umbrellas.

Mastering flash photography is a major element of success in a variety of situations